It is cruel and inaccurate to tell people that trials, temptations and setbacks disappear after you become a Christian. Shortly before His arrest and execution, Jesus said the following to His disciples: "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Today's Devotional Scripture -
"...These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold - and your faith is far more precious to God that mere gold. So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trails, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6-7, New Living Translation)
A Personal Testimony
My wife Lori and I have been through a lot of trials in our 35 years of marriage. In 1990, Lori was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Some doctors and nurses told her that she'd never walk again. Lori politely told them that they don't understand the power of God. She not only walks, but continues to work as an instructor at Livonia Public Schools and pursues the activities that make her and others happy.
In 2003, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease (PD). There is no cure for PD. Doctors can only treat the symptoms and hope the tremors and limping can be held to a minimum. And yet I have been able to work a pretty demanding schedule and been able to expand my service in the name of Jesus in the last 10 years.
I've also been laid off twice in the last four years. I am accustomed to it, because Information Technology is a very volatile industry. You can wake up in the morning and encounter serious delays in software development, network outages, unhappy customers and cost overruns.
What works for Lori and me
If you pin me down on what enables Lori and I to deal with the trials and setbacks, I would respond with the following suggestions (in no particular order):
- Listen to the Holy Spirit. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit (see John 14) to help believers. I believe the Holy Spirit encourages, guides and teaches me. I have shared with a number of Christians that all the wonderful ideas that become part of these devotionals are inspired by the Holy Spirit and sometimes (to my delight) they come "out of the blue."
- Pray and pray some more. God never tires of listening to our prayers. He has heard my humble, angry, confused and desperate prayers. I know there is nothing that I have told God that He doesn't already know, but I find great comfort in knowing that He listens and has already acted on my prayers and the prayers of others.
- Read The Bible constantly. I have been a Christian for 40 years and I constantly read and study the scriptures. My wife has discreetly posted passages of scripture in our house. They serve as reminders that God loves us, has a plan for each of us and He will rescue us in our time of need.
- Worship regularly. Find a church that teaches the truth and has a God-given purpose. Some may argue in this world of technological wonders that gathering together in church is unnecessary. They claim you can access everything through a handheld device. I prefer the counsel of the author of Hebrews, who wrote: "Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His (Jesus) return is drawing near." (Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Listen to the counsel of wise Christians. You can have many friends, but you also need wise Christian advisers. We don't realize how many experiences we share with others and many times they can provide insights on how to overcome a particular temptation, trial or setback.
- Serve like Jesus. One of the quickest ways I know to overcome "the blues" is to go help someone. It's not about me. It's about the One who came and saved me by surrendering His life on the cross, defeating sin and death, and then being resurrected to provide humanity with a living savior.
- Celebrate! God has blessed my family, our friends and our church. Sometimes we let our present misfortunes prevent us from celebrating the beauty of God's creation, the simplicity of a child's love and the power of God's grace.
We need to convince an ever-changing world that Christians won't give up on their neighbors, their community, their city, their state and their country until Jesus returns. And the best way to convince is to be loving in spirit, active in service and obedient to the will of God.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the trials in my life. I know they are for my good. They test and prove my faith, to show that it is strong and pure. Help my faith to grow so it can stay that way through the rough times, remembering that these trials are momentary, light afflictions. in the name of my savior, Jesus. Amen.